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Plenary Session 08: "Mind, Body, and Cellular Aging" presented by: Elissa Epel, PhD

09:15 - 10:00, Regency Ballroom, Terrace Level

Elissa Epel, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychiatry

University of California San Francisco (UCSF)


Presentation Synopsis

Ancient wisdom describes how living in the present can promote healthy aging.  A measure quantifying the rate of biological aging beyond the absence of disease could offer insights into meditation-aging relationships, but such a measure has been elusive.  The telomere/telomerase maintenance system provides a measure of cell proliferative potential, and predicts early diseases of aging and mortality.   There is now an emerging body of research that examines how indices of biological age may differ in long term meditators vs. controls, and how they can be influenced by mind-body interventions, both acute and intensive. This presentation will review the evidence to date, describe new findings from our clinical trials of meditation, discuss possible mechanisms, and explore paths for further inquiry.  



Elissa Epel, PhD is an Associate Professor at UCSF, in the Department of Psychiatry, Director of the Aging, Metabolism, & Emotions lab, Director of the Center for Obesity Assessment, Study, and Treatment (COAST) and Asst. Director of the Center for Health & Community, and faculty affiliate of the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine.  Dr. Epel received her BA in Psychology from Stanford University and PhD in Clinical and Health Psychology from Yale University. Her research investigates the intricacies of the mind-body connection, both in states of suffering and after wellness interventions. In particular, she has been studying psychological, social, and behavioral processes related to chronic psychological stress that accelerate biological aging, and how meditation or mindfulness-based interventions might slow cellular aging. She also studies the interconnections between emotional life, eating, and metabolism.  With her collaborators, including Rick Hecht, Steve, Cole, Robert Lustig, Nancy Adler, Barbara Laraia, Cassi Vieten, Jennifer Daubenmier, and Jean Kristeller,  she is conducting clinical trials to examine how mindful eating programs affect weight loss, pregnancy health, and baby outcomes.  She is currently studying how a specialized mindfulness training targeting parenting stress affects aging biology as well as child well-being, especially for children with autism, with Cliff Saron and Will & Teresa Kabat Zinn.  New methods include how mobile technology can promote changes in daily experience. She is involved in National Institute of Aging initiatives on measurement and role of ‘stress’ in aging, and on ‘reversibility’ of early life adversity.  Her research on stress and aging is covered in “Stress Less” (by Thea Singer). Her research publications are online at  http://www.chc.ucsf.edu/ame_lab/publications.html